Laika has a page posted for the animated feature version of Coraline, with what may be a production image, a description of the plot, news about the feature, and a brief interview with Henry Selick.
Note: The site does require a Flash Player to see the images, and loads very slowly on a dial-up connection.
From the January 19th Philadelphia Citypaper:
Neil Gaiman, the creator/writer of DC Comics series Sandman has published graphic novels and written the Sundance Film Festival contender MirrorMask, Thu, Jan. 26, 8pm, FREE, the Great Court of Mitten Hall, Broad St. & Berks Mall, Temple University
[Ed note: Mitten Hall holds 550 people. Assuming that Philadelphia crowds are similar to the New York ones, you should probably plan on showing up early…just in case. – la]
Anansi Boys and Mirrormask (Book) Reviews – New Zealand Herald
From the 19th January New Zealand Herald:
It is an indication of Neil Gaiman’s massive popularity he garnered a loyal following way beyond comic fandom with his DC Vertigo series The Sandman that the English-born, American-based author’s second adult novel proper, Anansi Boys, is presented more like a DVD than a book. It comes complete with exclusive extra material in the shape of a deleted chapter, reading-group discussion questions and more.
Anansi Boys springs out of one of the minor characters from Gaiman’s first adult novel, the impressive American Gods. African spider-god Anansi is a trickster in the mould of Coyote and Loki and it is his slightly exaggerated death that sets the plot in motion.
But the story mostly centres around Anansi’s apparently human son, the puntastically named Fat Charlie Nancy, who not only discovers that his recently deceased father was a minor deity but also that he has a long-lost brother, Spider.
Unlike Fat Charlie, Spider has inherited their father’s supernatural gifts along with his irresistible charisma and womanising ways. Spider soon takes over Fat Charlie’s life, stealing his flat, job and fiancee.
Although it does contain a few grisly moments, Anansi Boys is a more light-hearted, gentler read than American Gods and, with its focus on just the one god as such, its scope is more intimate than epic.
Anansi Boys also marks Gaiman’s return to the humorous side he first displayed in his 1990 prose debut, Good Omens, which he co-wrote with Discworld author Terry Pratchett, although this time around his references are more Ealing comedy than Monty Python.
However, Gaiman struggles to maintain the balance between the story’s fantastical and humorous elements and his conclusion is a little too neat. At times, I longed for a story with a bit more teeth but Anansi Boys is still an absorbing read.
MirrorMask, meanwhile, adapts Gaiman’s feature-film debut of the same name and it is published in the same oversized format as the author’s highly successful children’s picture books, The Wolves in the Walls and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish.
Accompanying Gaiman’s whimsical prose are lavish illustrations by Gaiman’s frequent collaborator and MirrorMask film director, Dave McKean. MirrorMask is less like a traditional comic book than its two predecessors the words and pictures are mostly presented separately but unlike The Time Traveller’s Wife author Audrey Niffenegger, who sniffily proclaimed that her recent, disappointing Three Incestuous Sisters was a visual novel, not a graphic novel , Gaiman and McKean are proud of their pulp roots.
As for MirrorMask’s story, it closely resembles Gaiman’s excellent children’s novel, Coraline, which he will also soon make into a film; both revolve around a young heroine who ventures into a spooky otherworld, which is similar but at the same time eerily different to our own.
MirrorMask the film has yet to be scheduled for release in New Zealand so Gaiman aficionados will have to be content with this superb adaptation. And reading the book will not spoil the film, because the main joy with consummate storytellers such as Gaiman and McKean lies not in which story they tell but in how they tell it.
Mirrormask Film Review – Video Business
From the January 16th Video Business:
Color, PG (mature themes), 101 min., DVD only $26.96
DVD: two featurettes, interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, on-set time-lapse video, Comicon 2003 Q&A session
Street: Feb. 14, Prebook: now
First Run: L, Oct. 2005, $1 mil.
Cast: Stephanie Leonides (Yes), Gina McKee (The Reckoning), Rob Bryson (24 Hour Party People), Stephen Fry (Gosford Park)
Director: Dave McKean
Story Line: Fifteen-year-old Helena (Leonides), whose parents oversee and perform in a traveling circus, enters a fantasy world when her mother (McKee) becomes ill. There, Helena encounters a wicked queen of shadows and the motherly queen of light, whom Helena must save before she’s destroyed by her own evil twin.
Bottom Line: If Federico Fellini and Terry Gilliam took LSD and directed a movie together, it would probably look something like this visually striking psychedelic family film. In reality, this effort is the collaboration of the Jim Henson Company; Neil Gaiman, the creator of the revered Sandman comic; and visual artist McKean, so it’s no surprise that it looks delectably trippy, presenting a spooky atmosphere overflowing with symbolism and bizarre characters. The fact that MirrorMask is actually conceived for older kids and younger teens a la Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal didn’t help its abbreviated run in arthouse theaters. Although the film is somewhat hard to follow at times, its hypnotic look should bolster word-of-mouth enough that the DVD could click beyond the hardcore comic fanciers.
Mirrormask Review – Davis Enterprise
From the November 4th Davis Enterprise
Rated PG for dramatic intensity.
This one will haunt your dreams.
MirrorMask is that most delicate of cinematic creatures: a superficially childlike but actually quite rewarding fairy tale for adults … a description that will come as no surprise to fans of Neil Gaiman, who wrote the screenplay. This captivating, visually sumptuous feast f
or the senses belongs i
n the lofty company of genre classics such as Time Bandits and The City of Lost Children, although (alas!) Gaiman’s film isn’t quite as focused as those earlier works.
Those in the know need no introduction to this impressively agile author, who made his name by writing a lengthy run of the re-configured Sandman comic book. Gaiman, in the company of Alan Moore and a few other equally imaginative scribes, helped prove what some of us have been bleating for years: that comics ain’t just for kids. Gaiman’s stint on Sandman led to several novels, including the celebrated American Gods and the just-published Anansi Boys, along with a handful of equally entertaining children’s books – that also aren’t just for kids – such as Coraline and The Wolves in the Walls.
Like Ray Bradbury, Gaiman is a fantasist whose literary style transcends genre description: Both men write stories where the plot isn’t necessarily as important as the poetic imagry used to advance the narrative. In that sense, translating their works to film can be an iffy proposition; absent the author’s precise way with words, the visuals aren’t necessarily as evocative as the prose.
MirrorMask is a collaborative project with Gaiman’s longtime friend and colleague, Dave McKean, an artist and infrequent film director well known for his singularly compelling, collage-style illustrations. McKean did many of the covers during Gaiman’s run on Sandman, and the artist’s idiosyncratic style is a perfect complement to Gaiman’s precise, carefully constructed text.
In a word, this film is mesmerizing.
The magic begins immediately, with title credits that only can be described as a pop-up book somehow turned corporeal and fully three-dimensional. MirrorMask is yet another theme and variations on Alice in Wonderland, with a young heroine plunged into a fantasy world not her own, which obeys oblique rules beyond her ken … if, indeed, there are any rules at all.
But this story also has a sly subtext that addresses teen rebellion, and the need to recognize that – generation gap notwithstanding – sometimes there really is no place like home.
Stephanie Leonidas stars as Helena, a 15-year-old British girl whose parents run a dilapidated family circus that teeters on the edge of financial stability. Helena has grown to loathe her nighttime routine of dressing up, juggling and capering about in the single large tent; she finds it embarrassing and – in a delicious note of irony – wishes she could run away and join real life.
Leonidas is an expressive young actress, and she makes a thoroughly credible heroine: resourceful and vulnerable by turns.
Helena derives personal satisfaction from producing countless pages of whimsical, eccentric artwork (all McKean’s work), much of which adorns her bedroom wall. She exchanges cross words with her mother (Gina McKee) one evening, mere hours before the poor woman falls ill and is rushed to the hospital for treatment of something unspecified … but clearly dire.
The grief-stricken Helena blames herself for the cruel words hurled during that final argument, although her father (Rob Brydon) insists, of course, that it isn’t her fault.
Then, having retired to bed one night, Helena wakens in a bizarre landscape that seems an odd blend of her run-down neighborhood and the artwork on her walls. She has no time to contemplate these surroundings, because a masked figure dubbed Valentine (Jason Barry) immediately warns her to flee an advancing inky wave of blackness that blots out landscapes and living beings alike … and often erupts with small, spider-legged nightmares that subsequently spy on those who evade assimilation.
Before long, and thanks to the preoccupied but still helpful Librarian (Stephen Fry, recognized in voice if not appearance), Helena learns that this strange land is ruled jointly by queens of light and darkness. But something has gone wrong; the dark queen’s daughter has disappeared, taking with her a fabled icon known as the mirrormask. This has sent the sun-bright queen into a coma-like sleep, which in turn has allowed her malevolent colleague to expand her control.
Parallels to Helena’s own life become more obvious when we see that McKee also plays both queens, while Brydon pops up as the prime minister of daylight lands. As with The Wizard of Oz, all the figures in Helena’s waking reality have new roles in this frightening fantasy realm, and her relationships with them are key to finding a way back to her own universe.
The creatures encountered in this kingdom are rendered with a blend of McKean’s artwork, computer animation and Muppet technology from the Jim Henson Studios; the results are – trust me – captivating beyond my ability to describe. The most obvious Muppet creations include monkeybirds gifted with both flight and amazing gymnastic skills, and a snarky little armadillo/porcupine that serves as the black queen’s lackey, and is given to mordant asides.
Enchanting as the Muppets are, though, the cinematically recreated bits of McKean’s artwork are breathtaking. Helena (and we) finally get some answers when the Librarian points them to a book that opens into the most amazingly elaborate mechanical paper device one could imagine; it proceeds to give an entire short-course history of this dreamlike realm. Some of the more malevolent creatures are three-dimensional cats with disturbingly two-dimensional, human-like faces (another McKean signature).
The only problem, which becomes increasingly more troubling, is the story’s refusal to follow any rhyme or reason. Helena and Valentine frequently are menaced by yet another strange set of creatures, often for no reason, and they escape via some crazy scheme that occurs to them at precisely the right moment. If we don’t know the rules, then it’s difficult to develop any sense of whether Helena is in jeopardy, or if she’s any closer to achieving her goal.
Fortunately, the narrative’s moral center – Helena’s trust in herself, and her growing recognition of the need to show some maturity – is pretty easy to follow, even if the various peril-laden hiccups seem made up from one moment to the next. Then, too, you may not care; merely reveling in the astonishing imagination on display might be enough to hold your attention.
Or try this: Read the book first. It’s a slight volume, and – fortified with Gaiman’s rich and evocative prose – you’ll probably enjoy the movie even more.
Anansi Boys Review – Free Lance-Star
From the January 12 Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star:
When it comes to nonfiction literature, the popularity of a book usually comes from how high-profile the subject is.
Fiction, however, is a different game. Be it sci-fi, fantasy or historical fiction, the author must rely on his or her skills to make these imaginary characters seem real.
It has been done many times throughout history, and the modern master of this art is Neil Gaiman. The U.K. native, who is most famous for his graphic novel series Sandman, has in recent years been storming his way into readers’ hearts with his novels, especially with his newest book, Anansi Boys.
While this latest novel takes place in the same realm as his smash hit American Gods, it is not a sequel.
Anansi Boys is the tale of two brothers, Spider and Charles “Fat Charlie” Nancy.
After both of his parents pass, Fat Charlie is reunited with Spider, the brother he never knew he had. Their father was Anansi, the Greek spider god, who besides being the owner of every story ever told, also had a way of making everything end up in his favor.
Fat Charlie quickly le
rns that Spider seems to have inherited all of their father’s supernatural charm and has decided to use it to dethrone Charlie from his own life, including stealing his fiancee and making him lose his job.
In Anansi Boys, there are at least two or three other well-defined main characters whose stories all end up in the same place and are ultimately intertwined.
The skill that Gaiman uses in turning his characters into real people is breathtaking and forces the reader to keep the pages turning as more and more is revealed about the lives of the characters.
Anansi Boys is not as dark as American Gods, but it leaves readers with the same feeling of mysticism and the notion that maybe what they just read could be reality.
Gaiman is a master at all types of fiction, but he seems to have found his true niche in the realm of Anansi Boys and American Gods by blurring the lines of reality and wild fantasy.
Anansi Boys Review – School Library Journal
From the January 2006 School Library Journal:
Charles “Fat Charlie” Nancy leads a normal, boring existence in London. However, when he calls the U.S. to invite his estranged father to his wedding, he learns that the man just died.
After jetting off to Florida for the funeral, Charlie not only discovers a brother he didn’t know he had, but also learns that his father was the West African trickster god, Anansi. Charlie’s brother, who possesses his own magical powers, later visits him at home and spins Charlie’s life out of control, getting him fired, sleeping with his fiancée, and even getting him arrested for a white-collar crime.
Charlie fights back with assistance from other gods, and that’s when the real trouble begins. They lead the brothers into adventures that are at times scary or downright hysterical.
At first Charlie is overwhelmed by this new world, but he is Anansi’s son and shows just as much flair for trickery as his brother.
With its quirky, inventive fantasy, this is a real treat for Gaiman’s fans. Here, he writes with a fuller sense of character. Focusing on a smaller cast gives him the room to breathe life into these figures.
Anansi is also a story about fathers, sons, and brothers and how difficult it can be to get along even when they are so similar. Darkly funny and heartwarming to the end, this book is an addictive read not easily forgotten.
Audience: Adult/High School
–Matthew L. Moffett, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale
Year’s Best Graphic Novels, Comics & Manga Review – Publishers Weekly
From the January 2, 2006 Publishers Weekly:
This book represents a welcome and long overdue idea: a survey of outstanding American work in the comics medium from May 2003 to December 2004.
This sampler demonstrates the creative scope of contemporary comics and points out new directions for comics readers, old and new, to follow. It also provides a sense of a comics community, although unfortunately, Dark Horse and Marvel declined to participate.
The selections favor alternative comics, with a smattering of superhero material. But whereas a “year’s best” collection of SF short stories includes entire works, this anthology necessarily provides excerpts of longer comics.
Readers will get a good sense of the various artists’ styles, but this limitation does not always serve the writers well. For example, those unacquainted with Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen will not realize key story points from this brief excerpt. Short text introductions to each segment would have been helpful.
Nonetheless, some excerpts come off impressively, such as Jaime Hernandez’s vignette from Love and Rockets, and especially a somber segment from Joe Kubert’s Yossel. Neil Gaiman provides strong bookends with his introduction and part of his and artist P. Craig Russell’s superb “Death” tale from Sandman: Endless Nights